For the second straight year, Independence looks to add several police officers.
In the 2018-19 budget, the city added five officer positions, allowing the Police Department to create a street crimes unit that paid immediate dividends in felony arrests, recovered stolen property and drug seizures.
For the 2019-20 fiscal year budget, City Manager Zach Walker has proposed six new positions – two officers and four sergeants. The sergeants would be assigned to supervisory roles in criminal investigations, community services and uniform patrol. All told more than $500,000 in additional allocations would be made for these positions.
The Police Department currently has 206 sworn officers, and Chief Brad Halsey has estimated the city would need to hire 30 additional officers to provide ideal coverage around the city. The proposed use tax, which the council is considering for the Aug. 6 ballot and would provide funds equally for police officers and the animal shelter, could fund an additional 11 positions, Halsey said.
The new budget takes effect July 1. The City Council is expected to approve it next month. Among the other budget recommendations of note, from a total proposed budget of $320.1 million:
• $46,320 in the water department fund for an additional full-time customer service supervisor to help with utility billing questions.
• $95,000 from the street sales tax fund for automatic vehicle location software. This, Walker said, will help answer the eternal question of, “When will they plow my street?” The GPS-based technology will allow public works staff to track snow plow progress along their routes, evaluate plow sensor data and make possible adjustments, and the public can also track plow locations.
• Eliminating four vacant positions from the law department, increasing outside legal services and allocating $57,500 for cybersecurity consulting to continue that service.
• Reducing IndeBus service by three hours on Saturday and an hour on three of the weekday routes, based on ridership data.
• Nearly $924,000 to cover the city's portion of the 80-20 split for health-care premiums, which are expected to go up 8 percent after four years of no increases.
• An additional $40,000 to the central garage fund for fleet repairs.
• Eliminating the March and November drop-off depot dates – the two lowest-attended monthly events – and raising those fees slightly. The drop-off depot is for trash, brush, batteries, tires and many appliances (no bagged grass/leaves, computers, TV monitors, or hazardous liquids).
• $25,000 to develop a master housing strategy.
• $29,488 in the tourism fund to add attendants at the city's historic sites.